Maie Casey, Baroness Casey

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Ethel Marian Sumner "Maie" Casey
Lord and Lady Casey c 1963.jpg
The Caseys at Berwick, circa 1963
Born Ethel Marian Sumner Ryan
(1892-03-13)13 March 1892
Melbourne, Australia
Died 20 January 1983(1983-01-20) (aged 90)
Berwick, Australia
Nationality Australian
Spouse(s) Richard Casey (m. 1926–1976)

Ethel Marian Sumner "Maie" Casey, Baroness Casey, AC, FRSA (née Ryan; 13 March 1892 – 20 January 1983) was an Australian pioneer aviator, poet, librettist, biographer, memoirist and artist. Richard Casey, Baron Casey was her husband.

Robert Menzies famously referred to her as "Lady Macbeth".[1]

Early life[edit]

Ethel Marian Sumner Ryan was born in 1892, younger child of Victorian-born parents, Sir Charles Snodgrass Ryan, a prominent Melbourne surgeon, and his wife, Alice (née Sumner) Lady Ryan. She is also the granddaughter of Charles Ryan and Marian Cotton (John Cotton's daughter).[2]

She became known as "Maie" at an early age. Rupert Ryan was her brother. She was related by blood or marriage to leading Victorian families; one of her father's sisters married Lord Charles Montagu Douglas Scott, son of the 5th Duke of Buccleuch.[3]

Casey grew up on Collins street, Melbourne. Her father had his residence and surgery on the same street.[2] Casey was educated privately, and when she was 14 years old she left Australia to attend St George's Boarding School in Ascot, England.[2] After some time she accompanied her brother to Cologne.[2]

Her brother Rupert, a member of the House of Representatives 1940–52, married Lady Rosemary Hay, daughter of the 21st Earl of Erroll. Casey wanted to go to university, but was blocked by her father due to her sister Melian's breakdown during her time at Cambridge. [3] During World War I, she served as a VAD nurse. [3]

Marriage to Richard Casey[edit]

Maie Ryan married Richard Casey on 24 June 1926, at St James's Parish Church, Westminster, London. She supported him in his public life. The couple had two children.[4] His career saw them live successively in Canberra, Washington, Cairo, and India, where, during the last years of the Raj, she was Vicereine of Bengal. In Washington, D.C. she was an eloquent advocate of the United States joining the Allied cause.[citation needed]

Famous Associations[edit]

In Egypt, she was a confidante of wartime leaders Winston Churchill, Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery and Harold Macmillan as well as an indefatigable war worker; in Bengal she fought to raise the status of Indian women, discussed political affairs with Mahatma Gandhi and became an intimate friend of Jawaharlal Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten.[citation needed]

Casey also associated with Noël Coward, Patrick White, Katharine Hepburn, Cecil Beaton and Sidney and Cynthia Nolan.[1]

Literary works[edit]

Casey published three autobiographical works. An Australian Story, 1837–1907, published in 1962 discussed the history of four generations of her family.[2] Tides and Eddies was published in 1966 and an account of her early married life.[2] In 1980, Rare Encounters included the reminiscences of Lady Edwina Mountbatten, Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, Dame Nellie Melba, and her mother in law, Mrs R.G. Casey.[2]

Casey also published in 1975 a biography on Dame Nellie Melba, entitled Melba Re-visited.[2] She further produces two volumes of verse, Verses, in 1963 and From the Night in 1976.[2] She further co-authored Early Melbourne Architecture 1840–1888 in 1953.[2]

Casey further wrote a libretto to Margaret Sutherland's opera The Young Kabbarli.

Interest in the Arts[edit]

Casey was a painter and illustrator. She attended the Westminster School of Art in London and in Australia associated with the George Bell School in Melbourne.[2]

She illustrated Ellis Rowan's 1961's Wild flower Hunter and her own book, An Australian Story.[2]

She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She was a member of the International Committee appointed to judge a work of sculpture to honour the "Unknown Political Prisoner", and she had a long association with the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.[citation needed]

Further patronage[edit]

She became the patron of the Australian Women Pilots' Association (AWPA) at its inaugural meeting at Bankstown on 16 September 1950.

In January 1960, Richard Casey was made a life peer of the United Kingdom House of Lords, and she became Baroness Casey. After his retirement as Governor-General of Australia (1965–69), they purchased a house built by Eugene von Guerard in East Melbourne, and her last years were spent in Berwick. Lady Casey was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 1982[5] and died in January 1983, aged 90.

Further reading[edit]

Glittering Surfaces, a detailed biography of Casey, based on extensive archival research and featuring a critical assessment of her personality and achievements and candidly surveying her relations with her children, husband and other colleagues and intimates, was published by Diane Langmore in 1997.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Feisty femmes skirted scandal". TheAustralian. Retrieved 2016-11-19. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "MS 1840 Papers of Maie Casey". Retrieved 2016-11-19. 
  3. ^ a b c Profile, Australian Dictionary of Biography,; accessed 8 June 2018.
  4. ^ "Lord and Lady Casey in their garden at Duntroon with their son and daughter [picture] 1935". National Library of Australia. 
  5. ^ It's an Honour: AC
  6. ^ Diane Langmore. Glittering Surfaces St. Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1997.

External links[edit]